How are you... in Moscow (Valentin Diaconov)

Hoe staat het in deze tijden van corona met onze vrienden die in het afgelopen jaren op bezoek waren bij Stroom, bij wie wij zelf op bezoek zijn geweest, of die hopelijk dit jaar nog komen?
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In these times of corona, what about our friends who visited Stroom in the past years, whom we visited ourselves or who hopefully will be part of the Stroom program this year?
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We vroegen het aan Valentin Diaconov, een van de curatoren in de Stroom Invest Week 2017, en curator bij Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moskou, Rusland.

We contacted Valentin Diaconov, one of the visiting curators in the Stroom Invest Week 2017, and curator at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia.

June 17, 2020
from Moscow, Russia

The last few months have seen an upsurge in large scale, planetary statements. There is a market of sensationalist predictions, and the art world is not exempt from the race to signify change. I see value in keeping it small and tending to immediate environs, not whole environments. So, what follows is a sequence of very quiet observations on how things stand here, under a planeless sky of Moscow.

If anything, quarantine escalates the fear that the art world is too precarious. Will it hold on through a succession of closed galleries, postponed shows, cancelled lectures and talks? The money is tight even at the best of times, and now the regime of self-isolation is going through small businesses like a Kalashnikov through clips, emptying out properties one by one. Artists are, basically, independent contractors, feeling a similar pinch.

This tightrope mentality leads to initiatives big and small that build on solidarity, a resource that is — thankfully — never scarce among the art workers. By themselves, separate from both private and state capital, they invent virtual marketplaces or establish cooperatives. Bold political aspirations come forward, as when the editorial board of, an independent arts blog, called for immediate implementation of Universal Basic Income in all of Russia.

In lieu of massive societal change my workplace invented Garage Reflections, a web presence overseen by Andrey Misiano, an outlet for inquiry into the present condition for artists, curators and independent activists, with a substantial remuneration for their work. I am in the final stages of making the Second Triennial of Russian contemporary art, and this time it's based on relationships and help, with artists of the first Triennial delegating their place to their friends, mentors, and relatives - an experiment in extending the privilege you are given. I did not plan for this being a timely project, but it seems that a lot of power dynamics makes less and less sense every day. Maybe it is time to start networks from scratch.

What else is to be done when old structures betray their biased artificiality? We have seen how vital are the preconceived notions of racism all over the world, and how many different colonial legacies need just a spark to be readdressed again. Race is very hard to talk about here, as October Revolution erased it from the visible public life along with private property, exiling racism into the grey area of anecdote and microaggression. Not seeing race does not mean that one's not racist, however. Like in many European countries, Russia's decolonial turn is still ahead, and it will take coordinated effort of very different generations and professions. Something to look forward, I guess, after the quarantine is over.


Karina Sadreeva-Nurieva, 'The windowsill at night', 2020
foto: link to work: see below
Valentin Diaconov op bezoek bij Bram De Jonghe tijdens Stroom Invest Week 2017
foto: Christain van der Kooy
Valentin Diaconov
Curator bij Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moskou, Rusland.
>> Lees zijn interview op
Jegens & Tevens (2017)

Image: Karina Sadreeva-Nurieva, The windowsill at night, 2020. For sale at Egor Market, an artist-run feminist online store.